Roger Ross was described in the Daily Mail as ‘a man who makes Basil Fawlty seem relaxed and easy-going’. How do you get on?
He is like my second father. We have a great relationship and we trust and respect each other. He trusts me to get on with things.
Roger still owns the business but he’s handed management over to me and my remit is to ensure its longevity.
He didn’t like the negative criticism from the programme. I don’t think it represented him fairly. But we all have a sense of humour.
The programme was to be taken reasonably lightly. Often antiques shows present the world of art and antiques as worthy and rarified. We wanted to show what it was really like.
How did being on the television help business?
It was very helpful. We certainly had people coming here because they had seen it on telly and many of these people would buy from us.
Some members of staff didn’t like it, but I loved it. I keep going back for more and I quite like being recognised by taxi drivers. The programme certainly didn’t do us any harm.
It had a sense of humour. We wouldn’t have liked it if the business ended up looking boring and stuffy.
There had been rumours that Lots Road might close. Are you committed to the long-term future of the business?
Lots Road is an institution. I am here to stay and so is the business. This place is in my blood. When I retire I will have put the plans in place to ensure it can survive for the long term.
What is happening to the current site at 71 Lots Road?
A council-led consortium has bought the site and there are plans for a large-scale redevelopment. We won’t have to leave for two to three years but the council would like us to return to the site in a purpose-built auction room once the development is finished.
We will relocate, most likely to another site on this road, but we are keeping our options open.
“Many of our clients are not UK nationals – many are from Europe. We don’t want it to be harder for them with Brexit
Will the business change with the move?
Things will inevitably change. But we are planning to have a more active saleroom. The space will not be larger but it will enable more frequent sales.
We are already making changes to the business, even ahead of the move. We have invested £30,000 in a new website, for example.
How will you take advantage of the closure of Christie’s South Kensington?
We have already seen a growth in consignments. Investing more money in more people will help us fill the vacuum.
We have around 28 staff and we are open to introductions to people who might want to join us.
How much will online play a part in the future of the auction world?
The antiques business is 20 years behind the rest of the world in terms of online. Currently for our business around 60% is bought online.
The future is a mix of physical and online auctions with probably around 70% of auctions being online. People still want to view some items and the theatre of the saleroom will still have a place. But the world is changing.
How does an auctioneer cope with online bidding? Is the theatre of the room lost?
Of course the internet has taken lumps out of your audience in the room. But as an auctioneer you have to interact.
You can use the camera and look straight at the internet bidders. I prefer an online bidder to the traditional commission bids left.
What are your feelings on Brexit?
We have concerns. Of course, in the old days, companies dealt with the export of goods without the EU but it will involve extra costs and delays. We don’t want that.
Many of our clients are not UK nationals – many are from Europe. We don’t want it to be harder for them here – we don’t want them to go. We also have a number of employees who are from the EU, who are vital to our business.
What do you get from holding your auctions on a Sunday?
We want to keep the Sunday sale. We did think about the idea of moving the day. But we recently discussed it with our clients and the feedback was not favourable.
There are other things that customers might want to do on a Sunday and we are in competition with these things. But if we moved to another day people would be working and would be too busy doing other things.
We must be doing something right though, with Sunday sales, as turnover increased last year.
When you retire from Lots Road, what else might you do?
I would love to run as an MP for the Green Party in Kensington. I think there could be a lot of support for the Greens here.
Took over day-to-day running of Lots Road Auctions
Returned to Lots Road Auctions
Left to work independently including on boats in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas
Joined Lots Road Auctions
Driver to picture dealers Bill Patterson and John White at WH Patterson in Albemarle Street